Monday, July 30, 2012

Work & Fun

All three teams are deep into requirement gathering and initial preparations for the draft version of deliverables. My team - Team 'Atameken' has almost completed the requirement gathering. Its fun to work with two managers who also belong to the same reporting structure but from different countries. At times, I would wonder if they were talking about Atameken or something related to IBM work. :-D Belinda and I would pull Brad for pronounciation conflicts and metric system. He would not understand celius or KM and we wont understand Farenhite or miles. So, thats a little bit of fun during the working hours.

Also, I get some Assam tea during breaks folks. Attached is the tea bag pic which means Assam in Russian.

Atameken Team @ Work

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mentoring Session

Today, our #ibmcsc Kazakhstan team had a mentoring session with the students of Nazarbayev University. Nazarbayev University has an established partnership with University College London (UCL), University of Wisconsin-Madison. Having said about the college, as a part of CSC activity, our CDS organizer Ainura and Alma from USAID planned for a mentoring session for the University students in the National Library, Astana

Divya from our team took up the responsibility to organize this activity. We all expected that about 30 students would come for this event but since there were exams, few students didn't turn up. Our session started at 9:30 AM with IBM's introduction using the IBM Centennial video. I think this would be the 50th time atleast I am watching this video but still I got goosebumps. The mere thought that I am a IBMer makes me feel proud. :-) This emotion was shared across the room. After this, we had introduction to each country by the IBMers. Divya also asked the students if they had any key points to be addressed which was written down on the whiteboard. Chester anchored the discussion on the Challenges faced by IBMers where we expressed the different challenges like time difference, language, etc. Divya also aired a video about the importance of pronunciation is what I would say. 

We had discussion about IT systems, Career path in IBM, Finance & Accounting, Project Management, HR related stuffs and about what IBM is doing Astana as a part of CSC. So, having covered all the Objectives that were planned we ended the session with group photo :-)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kazakh & Different Cuisines

I never knew that I would end up tasting different cuisines when I headed for the #ibmcsc Kazakhstan.

On the 1st day in Astana, I went for a stroll along the river Ishium and had the lunch in a Japanese fast food restaurant. This is where we ordered Chicken with all actions. :-D

The next day, it was in KFC in the Khan Shatyr mall - Didn't expect KFC in Astana for that matter.

The dinner was in a Tiffilies - Georgian Restaurant - I loved the food here. Very tasty and also it was entertaining. I could see everyone dancing for almost all the songs. Should definitely make a trip once again there

On the third day, we had our lunch in a German Restaurant - Muller - I could never forget this hotel. I was given half of the chicken for lunch :-(

Dinner was at a restaurant in the Central park fair - Typical Kazakh resturant - where I shared Pizza with Brad

Fourth Day, we had our dinner at Americano Grill Restaurant - Chicken and Vegetables is what I ordered for

This is when me and my Indian Colleagues wanted to see if there was any Indian restaurant nearby. To our surprise, we did find one - India Gate which was run by Nandha, typical South Indian and also from Salem (My Home town). So, Fifth day dinner was at the India Gate

On the seventh day, we tried the Turkish restaurant where I had a nice salad and Pizza - Well, the pizza was made from a different flour tasted very fresh - Look at the length of the Pizza people. :-D

Eight day, we tried a Russian restaurant near our hotel - This is going to be one of my favorite Mushroom dishes - Mushroom Julienne :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Trip to Borovoe

Once I got to know that my #ibmcsc assignment was to Kazakhstan, the first thing I did was to look up on the map where it was and the second thing I did was to look for places to visit in and around Astana. One of the place that I was told to visit was Borovoe by the local clients here. They in fact call it as little or Kazakhstani Switzerland.

This Borovoe is in the north of Kazakhstan and is about 250 KM from Astana and about 3 hours drive. There many lakes in this place - Lake Shychie, Borovoye, Chebachie and Koturkul to mention a few. Not only the lakes, there are few mountains also surrounding this place. It was more crowded when we visited since it was summer. I wonder how this would be in the winter. I guess it would be pretty snowed up as the temperature here goes down to -45C during the winter.

Having told the background on what is a Borovoe, we managed to get a local English speaking guide and booked a bus and planned to start our journey at 7:30 on Saturday. As it was planned people started turning up from 7:30 and it was just before 8 that we started from the hotel. All of us were excited as it was our first trip away from Astana. Everyone had brought some snacks that can be enjoyed during the travel. Here comes the thriller part, after traveling for about 45 minutes, we had a checkpoint where the police officers were checking papers of the driver. When they saw that it was tourist gang, they wanted to check the passports. Unfortunately except for a few, others carried passport and Visa copies and few like me didn't carry anything at all. Don't blame me guys. We were going to place with lake and all that. I didn't want to lose my passport. So, the police cross checked Chester's passport and Visa alone. He also warned others to carry the passports along with us all the time. Now, we had to turn back to the hotel to get our passport.

We got back to the hotel, took our passports and started back to Borovoe again at 10 AM. As expected none was checked for passport after that. :-D We reached Borovoe about 10 to 1. The plan was to have lunch first in a super sight seeing restaurant and then jump into the lakes. As expected, we didn't manage to get good seats and ended up in the third storey. It was pretty hot there and they took forever to bring the business meals(it was supposed to be got as soon as ordered for) After spending about 2 to 3 hours for lunch, we hit the 'Beach'. Chennai guys, nope. Don't think it was as big as our Marina or Elloit's beach. This is a lake beach and it was small and people could swim here also sun bathe. Few of them went for a walk along the rocks and along the beach, few hit the waters and I hit the peddle boat along with Srinath.

It was fun to ride in the boat after a long time. :-) After sometime, we went to another lake and I sat on a rock with my legs soaked in the water. Liza, Divya, Brad, Gustavo, Almas (one of the client) and our local guide hit the water and began to swim, Belinda and Tanner were sitting on the shores and enjoyed the sight of the Borovoe. Karla, SiewYin and Chester was on the other side of the lake watching a beautiful wedding. :-)

We all started back at 7 and reached the hotel at 10PM. The return journey was less fun as most of us went to sleep as soon as we started from Borovoe. Overall, this trip was a bit of fun and tiring as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

City Tour

This time it is going to be a Picturanry blog.  This blog is about the city tour we had about Astana. Few important points that I noted is that Astana is the youngest capital and the city is brand new and is about 10 to 15 years old. The city is also called as Little Dubai has lot of new Architectural buildings and the size of the buildings are pretty huge. 

Most of the buildings in Astana is opened on July 6th which is the Independence day of Kazakhstan and also the Birthday of the President. 

Siew Yin in the Georgian Restaurant.
At the Georgian Restaurant for the team Dinner on Saturday. This place had Karaoke and we were so thrilled to see people dance to the music
 Security Briefing day
Ben hiding his answer sheet during the orientation :-P

Vishal using his Managerial talents to write a Flowchart

Thats our Brad with Bayterek drawn on his Sheet

Belinda explaining how she made it to CSC

Divya  telling us about his exotic trips to other places
Gustavo with his Graphical representation of how he got to CSC
Karla writing down her take backs from CSC

After the Security Briefing for #ibmcsc, we went for the Street walk.

Liza and Ainura taking us for the walk to show us the supermarkets and exchange place

German Restaurant for Lunch. Yummy! :-) I ordered chicken and was like given Half of the chicken to eat. With help of Ben, Yuji and Karla I was able to complete it.
City Tour

Museum which has the First Gold man and other findings. All the ornaments worn by him is Gold.

Bayterek - This is the center of Astana City. The city was built around this structure. The legend behind this tower as a symbol is that it represents a popular tree, where the magic bird Samruk laid its egg

Karla, Me, Brad inside the Bayterek where you can see the city completely.

In the sphere on the top of Bayterek there is an imprint of president Nursultan Nazarbayev's hand. The people believe that if you keep your hand on this imprint and think of something, it will come true.

Thats me and behind me is the Green water Boulevard and the Ak Orda Presidential Palace - White House of the President.

Thats our guide for the day.

SiewYin, me and Chester taking off from Bayterek

Thats the Ministries of Kazakhstan. The building is about 1km in length.

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation (Pyramid of Peace) - It also houses a 1,500- seat opera house, a national museum of culture, a new “university of civilization”, a library and a research center for Kazakhstan’s ethnic and geographical groups.

Thats me in front of the “Hazret Sultan" Mosque which can house 10k people which is Central Asia's largest mosque.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trip to Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center

Cheste explaining his series of Unfortunate Events
Our team in Front of the mall
Prototype of the mall
As the Day 2 of our #ibmcsc dawns, we had more IBMers arrived in the morning and caught up with everyone. Liza from CDS, Gustavo, Karla and Chester. After the breakfast, we decided to go around the city at 11.30. That is when I happened to hear the 'the series of unfortunate events' that happened to Chester. First event - Lost story short: He was not able to get his visa as the Kazakhstan embassy was not present in Philippines and he had to travel to Malaysia in the last minute to get his visa. The second Event - The car that had to pick him up from Almaty for the layover didn't turn up. He waited for about an hour and took a cab by his own and ended up paying 10000 KZT. The Third Event - His room was not booked and after a set of calls, it was booked where he rested for about two hours. The Fourth Event - In the Almaty airport, they didn't give him the boarding pass as they wanted the credit card or a credit card copy that was used to book the tickets. He tried explaining about it but they couldn't understand English and after a set of calls, he was given a boarding pass. That ends the events for now, will keep you updated on further events.

So, after hearing the 'story' we all started to the mall. For me, this city is not a developing city at all. When someone sees the architecture, we would definitely change our perspective about the city. The city itself is newly built and all the buildings must about 1 to 10 years old. For instance, the mall was opened only on July 2010 and it is in the shape of a giant tent. As the name Khan-Shatyr itself means Royal Marquee which was the ancient type of house. It is also the highest tensile structure in the world.

Where was I?!?! Oh, ya. We went to this mall and had some wonderful time there. There were few rides inside the mall and we tried one - Load and Reload. Some of us tried and had some nice fun. :-) When I was a school kid and when I see a foreigner, I used to take pics with them. The same happened for me as well. We were approached by a family to take a pic along with them. It seems because we were from India. There was a Sky beach club in the mall which had a beach setup, gym, swimming pool, spa and a jogging track. The original price for a day is 62$, Liza was able to get some corporate discount and for us it is only 25$. Not sure how many of us will be using it but it was quite a discount.We had our lunch at the food court in the mall. There was KFC, Pizza to name a few. Word of the Day - Cheese is called as syr in Russian.

Thats Ben with hands and legs in the air :-)
Traditional Kazakh Dress

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 1: Astana

After a good night sleep in Kings Hotel Astana, I woke up pretty early at 6 AM as I am an early riser and unpacked my things. To my dismay, there was a iron and a kettle already in my room but I have had carried the same from India. :-( Anyways, after my unpacking, got ready and met Vishal and Sri for breakfast at the lift lobby. The breakfast was a complimentary from the hotel and it was huge. There were lot of varieties and to my surprise there was rice as well. :-D Even though it was not spicy, it was still rice which makes me close to Chennai. After our breakfast, we met Siew Yin (Our Team mate for #ibmcsc Kazakhstan) in the Reception and all four of us decided to explore the place around the hotel and have our lunch.

Ishim River View 1
 We headed down to the river Ishim where we walked for about 1 km atleast along the banks. This river is so different from the ones back home. In India, there is no definitely banks and it is full of soil but here, the river is so streamlined and managed well. As usual, I was the fun factor for Vishal and Srinath. All the jokes were on me and in addition Siew Yin joined them. We had a wonderful time walking around because the climate was so also nice. On our way back, we tried to exchange the currency to Tenge and shopped for some bananas, butter, etc.
Ishim River View 2
 The lunch is altogether a different and an entertaining story. We were looking for some restaurants and all the places had sign boards either in Kazakh or Russian. We found one restaurant with the sign board "Fast Food". It was a Japanese Fast Food place where the waitress and none for that matter can understand English. To top it, the menu was in Kazakh. :-( We had tough time ordering as none of us could speak or understand the language. We actually were using the sign language for showing Chicken wings and Chicken legs. Finally the waitress was able to find someone who could speak English and we managed to have a good Japanese meal for lunch. The restaurant also managed to give us a 30% discount. Yeppie!! :-) It was sunny on our way back to the hotel - it was Chennai sunny guys.
Sri and Vishal confused with the Menu
Our Menu

Thats my Lunch - Chicken with Cheese with Rice. It was Yummy!

On our way back to the Hotel
After reaching the room, I did some blogging and uploaded the fotos. Srinath, Vishal and I had some coffee and tea in Sri's room and had some very great discussion just about everything around us after which we watched a movie - Rockstar using my HD. :-D The movie was good and thought provoking. It was around 10 PM when we decided to have some dinner. Believe me or not, this city is busy after 10 also. We could see so many people during that time also. We managed to find a light music bar called Bear Resturant as Srinath wanted to shake his legs. There was light, music and of course drinks but there was none on the dance floor. So, Sri didn't get a chance but we will make sure that we go back there again. This restaurant had a English menu and so it made our ordering easy. Our Waiter asked us which country we were from and when we told him India, he was like 'wow' and the next minute we could hear a Bollywood number. :-) People in Kazakh are so sweet and welcoming. I am not sure if the same would happen back from where I come from but listening to some Hindi songs in a light music bar just because we were among them was great. I had some mushrooms for dinner and other two had Omelet with fried tomato. After our dinner, we headed back to our rooms and turned in for the night.
Thats a Crow